So here I am again, reading romance novels that would normally never grace my bookshelf, and I'm finding that I'm liking them more and more. There's something so innocent and sweet about a clean romance that makes me wish I was 18 again (something I don't wish for too often).
Unexpected Love: A Marriage of Convenience Anthology is just as the title describes. There are four short stories included and, for the sake of transparency, it should be noted that the first was written by my sister-in-law who published her first book last year. She called me when this project came up, wondering out loud if she should/could/really wanted to add the extra stress but it was a no-brainer. She's just full of too many stories to ever turn something down!
As I mentioned, hers is the story you open up to first: Ashbrook Abbey. I found Heather's writing to be quite comfortable and I nestled right into it. When our hero, Ambrose, learns that he has the opportunity to inherit his childhood refuge from his uncle, he tries and fails to make a decent impression. He comes to the conclusion that marrying the young and orphaned Kate could get him into his uncle's good graces. Kate agrees on her own terms as it would mean that, now married, she would receive an inheritance of her own: a small cottage by the sea.
My favorite part about this story is the subtle humor. While not full of witty lines or one-liners, you can't but help but snort at Ambrose as he tries desperately to impress his uncle and his new wife. He tries and fails over and over again but through the little trials, we find a love story. Heather is fantastic at those first kiss scenes, and I was totally swooning.
First Comes Marriage is set in New York in 1908 where Letty and her brother-in-law David marry one another in an effort to save their late sister and brother's children from the clutches of a greedy uncle. Because the situation was urgent, I felt like Letty just sort of found herself in this new situation and was suddenly expected to put on a show so everyone would believe her pretend-marriage was a real one. I kind of wish she had more of a resolve in the matter. However, as the story progresses, Daniel shows his affection and respect for Letty in practical and touching ways. I will say that I found this particular story a bit anti-climatic and the ending was a bit abrupt. Of course, it's amazing to me that any novella has a natural ending! I don't think I could fit an entire story into 20 pages.
The Price of Her Heart took me a minute to get into as it's a western and my brain felt a little jarred by not only the change of scenery, but also the heaviness of the subject matter. It took me a couple days to pick the book back up again. Our heroine, Faye, witnesses a crime and has to go into hiding to protect her own life. Part of her new life includes being married to Geoffrey, a small-town sheriff in Utah Territory. The story jumps between the perspectives of Faye and Geoffrey- Faye's in first person and Geoffrey's in third. If there's anything I would have changed about this story it would have been putting them both in first person. It drove me crazy. I didn't feel like the writing was as strong as the first two, but the plot was just different enough that I stayed entertained. I especially liked Faye's vibrant and fiery personality. She made me laugh and I definitely rooted for her.
Beauty and the Beholder felt unique and fresh! In an attempt to allow her granddaughter, Fanny, access to her inheritance, Lady Caldwell arranges a marriage between Fanny and her husband's nephew Percy. Unlike the other stories, where the couple find themselves in an awkward situation that eventually blossoms, this marriage of convenience is a battle of clashing personalities. Both Percy and Fanny are strong, witty characters and watching their loathing develop into something more was so fun! This was probably my favorite read second only to Ashbrook Abbey.
Overall, this was a very fun anthology full of budding authors and fresh plot lines. Totally worth picking up.
If you're interested in keeping up with what I'm reading, you can find me on goodreads.com/carrie4ya! I also love any new book recommendations so if there's a book you're dying to have someone to talk about it with drop it in the comments!